The Right Product for the Right Application

Australian Visual Solutions

Cameron Sutherland, the company’s founder and owner as well as its Managing Director, spoke with pride and enthusiasm of his company – and his team’s – success. “We have grown and sourced products from all around the world and partnered with key manufacturers that continue to grow with us. We continue to partner with our key suppliers and are always looking for new products to bring to market.

“Being a national Australian-owned company enables us to be fairly certain of what we purchase so we can purchase the right product for the right application.” Mr Sutherland explains that where international competitors frequently go wrong is by bringing in products from overseas based on overseas trends which are not aligned with the trends and needs of Australian customers. “They don’t have the ability to cater their range to the Australian market. That is very important for us and we’re able to bring in the right product for our customer because we’re in touch with our local vendors.”

Through its promotional publication of a yearly catalogue (published in June/July each year), AVS is able to assist its customers in future planning while internally utilising the year leading up to publication for the company to explore and prepare new products for the next year. Mr Sutherland is personally involved in this process, travelling worldwide to attend trade shows and view the trends. “Between the months of March and April, I begin travelling to international trade shows to seek out and purchase the right products that will complement our existing range. That gives us an opportunity to bring them in and put together a presentation for the sales team of what we’re doing for the next twelve months.”

When asked about AVs’ typical client, he responded enthusiastically, “Anyone who is producing signage! The sign/print display market is still growing and in the last twenty years we’ve always secured double digit growth; this will continue. Signage is everywhere and we are always surprised how our customers manage to get a sign on every medium. Car wraps, bill boards, boats, asphalt, concrete, golf carts, even shopping trolleys are getting personalised graphics.”

Indeed, AVS is kept busy year round through a variety of one-off projects as well as monthly retail campaigns, all of which are further supplemented by a continuous cycle of seasonal work. For example, over the past few months, the company has been busy with a plethora of work from national retail store signage to small supermarket banners, backlit freeway banners, vehicle signage and photos, as well as taking care of New Year promotions, banners and decorations. Furthermore, January saw the busy company gearing up for the Australian Open and a variety of outdoor music concerts and festivals, as well as upcoming Easter sales. On top of all of that, it has also taken on a large supermarket rebranding project.

The company stands out from the crowd of other branding and signage specialists due to its strong catalogue of leading brands selected specifically for their relevance to Australians. Highly respected brands carried by AVS include General Formulations, McSign, Yello Tools, Fletcher-Terry Trimmers, Spartan Media and Titan Rigid Substrates.

AVS strives to be as colourful, bright and creative as its products. “We have a similar culture,” says Mr Sutherland enthusiastically. “We love dealing with creative customers and always enjoy the challenge of supplying a new corporate rebranding, flash car wrap or a new application challenge. Our staff have to be enthusiastic and culture always rejects the bad eggs so thus AVS continues to grow on the incredible enthusiasm of the team… that is priceless.”

This company culture relies on its strong Three Pillar principal team, comprising Sales and Marketing Director, CFO, and an Import / Logistics Manager. The members of this principal team have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to which they are expected to adhere, and are diligent in maintaining discipline and independence within their roles. Says Mr Sutherland, “They are three pillars holding up a roof. If two get too close, it will be unbalanced.”

As to his personal secret for success, he says that ultimately you must “embrace your business and love it with a passion. When the vehicle is right, share your passion with staff and customers and they will become enthusiastic. Passion and enthusiasm in contagious; if you believe in a product it shows.”

Of course, that passion is tempered in Cameron Sutherland by a strong dose of reality; he maintains a level head and keen business sense and adds that a business owner must “never let your passion get in the way of clear thinking. You still need strong financial KPIs and to employ the right people that will allow your sales team to sell the product they are so enthusiastically driven to sell.”

With six locations nationally, consistency in process throughout each store is paramount. Despite that challenge, Mr Sutherland is proud to declare that, “the turnkey operation is working and working well.” The company has also introduced a shopping cart and online order processing system that reduces dispatch time significantly. “We run a national company and have a very skilled and trained customer service team that manage all the national calls.

“The catalogue, web sales and twelve sales reps on the road all have manageable KPIs,” he explains. “Being a national company, we can track when a certain rep or product line is dropping and address as needed. Each year we launch a new budget and catalogue and need to make sure our sales division is happy that the new products mix will enable them to reach new budgets. If the sales team and purchasing are on the same page then we are ready for a new trading period.”

Changes have also been made to the way in which AVS manages work and cash-flow – namely, adjusting sales methods to allow for more customer-driven online sales and fewer in-store interactions, which saves time for staff and customers alike while also making payment processes easier and more efficient. “In the past we had walk-in counter sales, but we now offer ‘1hour Express’ pick-up instead which allows customers to buy online; we guarantee that goods will be ready for pick-up within the hour.” The switch has eliminated any waiting in long lines for service, and AVS staff and management have found that the error rate has reduced dramatically.

Through the online interface, customers are able to create a unique login which enables quick and easy processing of orders without error. “The old days of customers calling in and placing verbal orders and faxing rough product description always added to our errors and credits. Customers are now ordering using our codes based on our catalogue information or web site this reduces the errors; our pick / pack errors are at .01 per cent while INFOT is at 90 per cent – pretty good for a national company!” Customers can also use the interface to view personalised reports on their special pricing offers and quotes, as well as to view past invoices and their payment history.

“We are a very good example of a National Trade supplier, Australian owned and operated with a staff that are thinking and acting globally with their professionalism and commitment to AVS and our industry,” summarises Mr Sutherland. “We have the right product split and support from suppliers that enable us to help all our customers from Hobart in Tasmania to Broome in WA.”

The company expects to continue enjoying double digit growth over the next three years and has, “new and exciting products already lined up for our 2013 / 14 catalogue. Web sales are increasing monthly and we see no restraints on the web based sales.” As an Australian owned company with national exposure, the company has expertly become a one-stop-shop for many important clients.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

January 18, 2019, 3:36 AM AEDT